Mary Magdalene


Bible References: Luke 8.1-3; John 19.25-27; Mark 15:40-41,47;  John 20.11-18; Mark 16.1-9

Heart of Story: Mary became a loyal follower after he expelled 7 devils from her. She provided for him and his disciples from her own money. She was present at Jesus’s crucifixion and was the first to see the risen Jesus.

Back Story: Mary was the most common woman’s name in first century Palestine. Most likely, Magdalene means that this Mary came from the town of Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. A common belief is that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute; however, no Bible documents that claim. One Bible commentator claimed that Magdala was on a major trade route between Persia and Egypt, a fact that he used to support the notion that Mary of Magdala earned her money as a prostitute. Levitical Law prohibited wages of prostitution from being given to the Tabernacle-Temple. It is unlikely if Mary earned her money from prostitution that Jesus, the Son of God,  would have accepted it.

Story Line: Often, Mary of Magdala appeared first on the list of women who followed Jesus, even at times before his mother, Mary. Likely, she encountered Jesus early in his ministry around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus cast 7 devils out of Mary which had to be a debilitating state for this woman. Apparently, Mary had some wealth despite her contending with the presence of devils in her body. After Jesus expelled the devils, Mary followed and supported Jesus with her own wealth. She even followed him to Jerusalem, where Jesus was tortured and crucified.

Mary is never listed as an apostle, merely a disciple. She is not identified as a sexual partner of Jesus any more than any other woman who followed and provided support for Jesus. She was not present at the Last Supper, nor when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The next morning she was present at Jesus’s crucifixion. Apparently, someone told her and the other women that Governor Pilate ordered Jesus crucified. Near the cross Mary of Magdala stood with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (John 19.25-27). Although Jesus addressed his mother from the cross, he did not say anything to Mary of Magdala or any of the other women standing there. Mary Magdala and other women saw where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus buried Jesus in a tomb cut into rock. They knew that a large rock covered the entrance to the tomb.

The Sunday (first day of the week) morning after Jesus was crucified while it was still dark, Mary and other women came to the tomb with spices to further anoint Jesus’s body (John 20.1-10). They found the stone rolled from the tomb, Mary looked inside and saw that the tomb was empty. She ran to where Peter and other disciples were and told them her finding. Peter ran to the tomb, entered it, and found the strips of linen lying there. The disciples went back to where they were staying, but Mary Magdalene remained at the tomb. Next,  she saw two angels seated in the tomb, then she saw Jesus outside the tomb. Mary had a conversation with Jesus, then ran to the disciples and reported that Jesus was alive.

Pondering Relationships: In some religious circles, Mary of Magdalene was identified as a prostitute. The Bible itself provides no information that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Nor, that Mary Magdalene had an intimate relationship with Jesus, the Son of God. Mary lived her life, was a disciple of Jesus, and died. Where she was buried is unknown.

Both the two angels in Jesus’s empty tomb and the risen Jesus himself asked Mary, “Woman, why are you crying?” (John 20.13,15).  The questions were asked after Mary saw the empty tomb. Apparently, both the angels and Jesus believed that Mary should be rejoicing not crying by Jesus’s absence from the tomb.

Reflection: Do you believe that Mary Magdalene should have rejoiced when she saw the empty tomb instead of crying?

Copyright: August 25, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

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